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The Picnic

Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   9.5 hour(s)
Publication date: 11/21/2023

NEW! Now Available

The Picnic

A Dream of Freedom and the Collapse of the Iron Curtain

Available from major retailers
Digital Download ISBN:9781696613057


The gripping story of a collective passion for freedom that shook the world.

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Product Description

In August 1989, a group of Hungarian activists organized a picnic on the border of Hungary and Austria. But this was not an ordinary picnic—it was located on the dangerous militarized frontier known as the Iron Curtain. Tacit permission from the highest state authorities could be revoked at any moment. On wisps of rumor, thousands of East German "vacationers" packed Hungarian campgrounds, awaiting an opportunity, fearing prison, surveilled by lurking Stasi agents. The Pan-European Picnic set the stage for the greatest border breach in Cold War history: hundreds crossed from the Communist East to the longed-for freedom of the West.

Drawing on dozens of original interviews, Matthew Longo tells a gripping and revelatory tale of the unraveling of the Iron Curtain and the birth of a new world order. Just a few months after the Picnic, the Berlin Wall fell, and the freedom for which the activists and refugees had risked imprisonment was suddenly available to everyone. But were they really free? And why, three decades since the Iron Curtain was torn down, have so many sought once again to build walls?

Cinematically told, The Picnic recovers a time when it seemed possible for the world to change. With insight and panache, Longo explores the opportunities taken—and the opportunities we failed to take—in that pivotal moment.


"A much-needed reminder of the inexhaustibility of the human quest for personal and collective freedom." —Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

Author Bio

Matthew Longo is assistant professor of political science at Leiden University and the award-winning author of The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen after 9/11. A native New Yorker, he lives in the Netherlands.